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State OKs post-Edison management plan; ESL needs special support, board learns

The Intercultural Charter School’s education and financial plans have been approved by both the Recovery School District and the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, ICS board members learned at their Jan. 19 monthly meeting.

During the meeting the board voted and approved the self-management plan that was requested by BESE when the school decided to move away from its association with Edison Learning, a for-profit management service. Principal Dayphne Burnett said the plan took four months to complete and drew on input from parents, staff and neighborhood focus groups.

Since terminating the contract with Edison Learning, Intercultural now has its own finance director, Tom Slager, who has been on the job for two weeks. Slager said the school has switched payroll companies, and that the staff’s W-2 forms went out several days ago. He asked that the board refer staff with payment or budget inquiries to him.

In an audit report, Justin Scanlan said that Edison Learning has not filed a lawsuit against the school for refusing to pay certain charges. He said an increase in enrollment has led to a larger reimbursement from federal grants. Examining the audit report of last year, Scanlan said that Edison Learning had been charging a management fee to handle federal grants, a practice that is not allowed. He said the 2011 audit report is still being revised.

Scanlan also said the school needs to verify if any students are not Orleans parish residents or risk losing federal grants and reimbursements. He added that the resignation of a board member also deviated from legal procedures. Board chair Cam Thanh Tran said members were not aware of the problem. Scanlan urged members to study state guidelines for charter school boards in order to be fully acquainted with their legal obligations.

Justine Symala, who teaches students for whom English is a second language, said the school must implement better reading comprehension strategies that directly address the school’s cultural diversity. She said that there are over 70 limited English speakers, and recently five new non-English speakers have enrolled. She said she is the only ESL-certified teacher and has the help of just one paraprofessional. She said ESL classes are making academic progress and most have exited the “unsatisfactory” category. Fourth graders need special help to assure better results in this year’s LEAP testing, she said.

Burnett said the school is considering whether to fill staff vacancies by hiring people who can better serve Vietnamese and Spanish-speaking families. The board approved hiring bilingual, perhaps even trilingual, personnel.

New teacher Mary Kent asked the board for permission to initiate ESL classes for parents and offered to volunteer. The board thanked her and approved the request. At their next meeting they plan to explore whether ESL classes could be opened to the community. Burnett said there is Title One federal funding available for parenting programs.

Coach Kendra Williams asked the board for approximately $500 to bring professional entertainers for black history month. The board agreed to donate the money rather than withdraw it from the school’s budget.

The meeting ended at 7: 45 with an audience of eight including a reporter for The Lens. Board members present were Cam Thanh Tran, Larry Boudin, Kathleen Carlin, Vong Nguyen, Alvaro Alcazar, Jerome Jordan, Francis Cascio. The next board meeting will be Feb. 18 from 6 to 8, but could be rescheduled.

 

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